I paddled my kayak under the Nevada sun as I watched my 11-year-old twin boys in their boats. I was as happy with their progress as the mama duck near shore was pleased with her awkward and flailing flock.
Our first day on the river was a relaxed start to a five-day trip with my boys, husband, and father. I trailed my fingers through green-glass water next to rising cliffs. I thought about the journeys we take as families and, if we're lucky and paying attention, the magic we find along the way. On day two, the trip fell apart.
We were well prepared to maximize our 15-mile route, taking it in small increments so as not to overwhelm the boys. Four miles per day, we thought, was pushing them somewhat, but doable.
As a Boy Scout turned Marine, my dad takes wilderness planning to the next level. There are meetings to prepare for meetings, then more meetings, and finally follow-up meetings to recap.
I, however, assume that if I have my paddle, my flotation device, fresh water, and a first aid kit, I can figure out the rest on the fly. "Good enough" is my mantra.
We had settled into camp on the second day when we learned about a surprise windstorm moving in our direction that would trap us for days if we stayed put. Suddenly we had to choose: weather a prolonged storm inside thin tents, or push the kids on an 11-mile journey in one shot.
We made a break for it.
My dad's meticulous planning was brought to bear as we packed easily and quickly. And all my practice winging it was added to the mix too.
We considered quitting halfway there, finding a campsite and hunkering down, but we persisted. The sun was relentless, and I alternated between draping my children with wet towels and finding words to encourage the lagging one. Float when you can't paddle. One stroke at a time. I'll stick with you the whole way. All lessons my dad had taught me first. On the water and in life.
After we pulled up at the final beach exhausted, sore, hungry, and safe, I watched my dad take his grandsons aside. He leaned down to eye level and commended them. It was the moment an officer salutes his troops, and the boys soaked up their Papa's praise.
Our work on this Earth is only this, after all: to love each other well. And on our exquisitely planned, suddenly spontaneous kayak trip, we did just that.
Beth Woolsey writes about her family adventures at .
This story originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Landcruisers.